This article originally appeared as a Design and Usability Tactics e-newsletter.
By Jim Kukral
You devote hours to building the perfect Web design for your company's new Web site. The colors are dead on; your navigation couldn't be any clearer; the words read perfectly and jump off the page. But you aren't done: You still need sign-off from the boss.
The problem is the boss isn't a design expert. Like most people, the boss usually bases his or her opinion on what "looks good," which isn't necessarily what customers think.
Before you walk into the boardroom to show off your perfect design, you need to have the right sales pitch to keep your design from being torn to shreds. Here are some ways to make sure you "sell" your designs more effectively.
Give the right answers
Be prepared to respond to every question or objection with a detailed, thoughtful, and truthful explanation. Quips such as "Well, it looks cool" or "I just like it that way" will probably ensure that your boss won't respect any of your future opinions.
Here's an example scenario:
Boss: "Why is this area on the left of the page mostly white space?"
Bad answer: "I'm not really sure. Is there anything you want to put in there?"
Good answer: "Good question. There are two main reasons for that white space: 1) We used that space to balance the page layout. Too many people were focusing on that area, yet we wanted their eyes to focus on the right side of the page. 2) In the future implementation, we plan on adding a series of promotional banners that can be rotated in that space; therefore, we left it unfilled until we decide what we're going to do then."
Make sure it's been usability-tested
Some bosses will never take your word for it, so always do a usability test first. You need to prove to your boss that you aren't the only one who likes the design.
It doesn't have to be an extensive usability test; simply find out what your coworkers think, and then ask them to role-play being the boss so you can test your answers.
Final words of advice for selling your design
- Never talk about how much money the new Web site design will make; instead, focus on how much it will save the company.
- Bolster your points with some stats.
- Lose your designer ego.
- Be flexible, but don't give in to everything.
- The person who signs your paycheck is the one you need to please, so listen intently to that person first.
- Remember that you're the expert—so act like it!
Jim Kukral has spent the last seven years working in the trenches of Web design, development, and usability for Fortune 500 clients as well as mom-and-pop companies.